What is Software Defined Networking?

SDN Explained

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Software defined networking, also known as SDN, is a networking architecture that separates network control from forwarding functions. This means network administrators can control traffic from one main control console versus controlling multiple network switches.

A network switch is a small device that centralizes communications among multiple connected devices in one local area network or LAN.

Is Software Defined Networking Important?

An application known as an SDN controller helps manage the flow in the SDN architecture, resulting in improved performance. In fact, SDN is being considered as an alternative to traditional networks, as it can direct network services independent of the connection between a server and the device.

Software defined networking's importance can be seen by understanding how it differs from traditional networking. According to Comparitech, "The biggest difference between a traditional network and SDN is that the latter is a software-based network. Traditional networks rely on physical infrastructure such as switches and routers to make connections and run properly."

What does all of this mean? Put simply, software defined networking involves the use of software for controlling services versus the use of different switches and routers. SDN helps administrators have much better control over their networks.

A network service is an application that provides a service or functionality to the end user. For example, email and file sharing are all network services.

Software Defined Network Use Cases

With SDN's ability to provide services based on need, there are many unique use cases emerging. For example, unified communications vendor Sonus Networks has found a way to combine session border controllers with network virtualization platforms to allow providers to create network capacity on demand.

SDNs also help data center managers increase their agility by automating their operations. Google and Facebook use SDNs within their data centers to further improve connectivity due to high levels of data and network requirements.

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Benefits of Software Defined Networking

Software defined networking offers network administrators many different benefits including:

  • Management of the entire network in one place: Administrators can manage the entire network, both physical and virtual elements, from a centralized location.
  • No manual configuration: Traditional networks must be configured manually, especially when administrators need to scale-up. SDNs allow for network changes at the drop of a hat — without manual configuration.
  • Higher level of security: Administrators can also control the security of the entire network from one place.
  • Time and cost savings: Centralized control results in great time savings for network administrators. Furthermore, hardware resources can be shared thanks to the SDNs capabilities, saving organizations money on costly hardware upgrades.

Software Defined Networking in the Home

Nowadays, home networks must adapt to new devices such as wearables, tablets, computers, and even smart thermostats that depend on network connectivity. To give at-home device users control over their networks, could SDN be an option in the home?

Currently, SDN requires technical knowledge of networking most users don't quite grasp. Plus, SDN requires certain costly technology that isn't readily available to the average homeowner. Many research papers and surveys have been conducted to explore the future of SDNs both outside the home and inside.

Software defined networking is changing the way network administrators are managing their network infrastructure. Only time will tell if SDNs continue to advance.